Loss of Daisy Hill Stroke Unit a “bitter disappointment”

December 1, 2014

After months of speculation about the fate of Stroke services at Daisy Hill Hospital, the Southern Trust Board has finally confirmed its plans to centralise all stroke services at Craigavon Area Hospital.

The recent announcement that a new £8.4 million paediatric centre was to be housed on the sixth floor of Daisy Hill Hospital – the current location of the hospital’s stroke unit – had led many to believe the decision to centralise stroke services had already been made.

Following a four month period of public consultation, those fears seemed founded with the announcement last Thursday by the Southern Trust Board that it had approved proposals for the development of a single specialist stroke inpatient unit at Craigavon Area Hospital.

The statement also revealed plans for the development of a new non-acute inpatient unit at Craigavon to replace inpatient services at Loane House, South Tyrone and Lurgan Hospital, as well as the relocation of dementia in-patient series from the Gillis Unit, Armagh to a new build at Craigavon.

News of the loss of Daisy Hill’s Stroke Unit has been met with great dismay and sadness in the local community with Newry & Armagh MLA Mickey Brady describing the decision as a “bitter disappointment.”

The Sinn Fein MLA said the proposals by the Trust to remove the specialist stroke inpatient Unit from Newry’s local hospital “do not stack up” given that it is widely recognised that Daisy Hill has provided the best stroke service in Northern Ireland.

“This is evidenced by the fact that in 2011/2012 the average length of stay for stroke patients at Daisy Hill was 17 days whereas at Craigavon Hospital it was 47 days,” said Mr Brady.

“On value for money alone and provision of service, the Daisy Hill Unit delivers. The Trust should further invest in and develop the Stroke Unit in Daisy Hill which would result in the provision of increased rapid access to specialist investigation and treatment to all on a regional basis.”

Newry and Mourne councillor Mickey Larkin echoed his colleague’s sentiments.

“Sinn Féin wants to see the best possible outcomes for Stroke patients following their hospital treatment,” he said.

“We have spoken to families whose loved ones have suffered strokes and they are telling us that the service provided at Daisy Hill was second to none.”

The Sinn Fein councillor added that feedback from families also suggested that moving stroke services to Craigavon will be “extremely traumatic” for stroke patients “and make it unworkable for families to fully support their loved ones.”

Both Sinn Féin representatives said the party intended to seek a meeting with senior Trust Officials to discuss these issues of grave concern among local people.

Commenting on the controversial decision, Trust Chief Executive, Mairead McAlinden, said the Trust had considered all written proposals received during the consultation period, including over 150 direct responses and a petition signed by over 8,000 people.  She said the views of public representatives, organisations that advocate for service users, partner organisations and staff from across the Trust had been listened to carefully and added,

“I hope that these detailed discussions, together with the Trust’s written response to the issues raised over the course of the consultation period, will assure people that the Trust is focused on providing better care in a way that we can sustain into the future.”

Trust Chair Roberta Brownlee said she was “extremely grateful” to everyone who took the time to meet with the Trust and to respond to the consultation paper.

“All responses were fully considered and the key issues discussed by the Trust Board before reaching a final decision” she said.

“Our plans set out a clear direction for how services must change in future if we are to maintain and develop hospital-based care that is of the highest quality, meets national standards and guidelines and meets the needs of the population we serve.

“Changes will not take place immediately – it has been clearly stated that implementation of our plans could take up to three years to put in place. We will continue to engage with users, carers, staff and our local community as we develop our implementation plans for these major developments which I believe are vital to ensuring quality health care in Southern Trust.”